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Wednesday, May 7th 2014

12:23 PM

What is Church? (part 2)

Page 2 Continued from “What is Church?

...We place much of our worldly identity and perceived self-worth into our secular work position. But those things can, and always do, change. So, is that who we really are?...

 Thus far in my life I have worked in various positions from Police Officer to Chauffer, Secretary, Custodian, and Sports Instructor and more. Yet, at the same time I have always worked as a part of the Church, sometimes paid, sometimes not. Nevertheless, when people ask me what I do for a living, I usually begin by answering them with the work that is most important to me, with the work that I am doing which will last.  


By that I mean, if my identify, myself worth, my purpose for living had been based primarily on being a Police Officer for example, my life would have been over a long time ago when I left the service. However, my work for the body of Christ continues on regardless of my secular occupation. You see, our “secular” occupations can easily come and go but we who are believers continue on with our positions in the body of Christ. It is a lifelong and eternal position in which we can grow, become stronger and accomplish even more good work for the Lord.  


The truth is that only a very, very, small percentage of us, the Church, are called by God to do full time ministry. But that doesn’t matter because fulfilling your position in Church has nothing to do with having a title or being paid to work in the church building.  


Actually, one could say the Church is physically at its smallest when we’re in our building on Sunday mornings. We’re all gathered in one place, but during the week we are huge! We are spread throughout the highways, the countryside, in cities, businesses, schools, government and more, where we are “Christ’s ambassadors”. So as scripture says: 



“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23).  


I believe that means much more than just trying to be the “best” plumber or office worker around. If at the end of the day those around us do not know that our first and foremost position is as a member of the body of Christ, then we have failed in our work for the Lord. That may sound harsh, but I know plenty of nice hard working and “responsible” people who are very good at their jobs, but who are lost souls on their way to hell. 


The truth is that Colossians 3:23 does not stand alone. Jesus also tells us:  


"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” (Matthew 5:13) 


We are to be the salt and light of Christ in whatever work environment we may find ourselves. That is our lasting work. So, we need to ask ourselves some questions: “Who am I really working for? Where does my true identity lie? Can people readily identify me as part of the Church?” 


I hope that none of you were thinking just now, “Well, they know I GO to church!” If you were, then, stop and go back to the beginning of this article and re-read it before continuing!  


Your true identity is as a worker in the kingdom of God. He is your Eternal Boss and ultimately the One to whom you and I must answer.  


We need to flip our work in the world view upside down by starting at the top and working our way down. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Like, “love your enemies” and “rejoice and be glad” when they persecute you. You see, God’s way of doing things often seems upside down and contrary to worldly logic. But it’s not God who is upside down, it is the world. When we start God’s view from the top, when we start with our position in the body of Christ, it matters little what our secular work may be. The goal for our work in this world is changed. We are no longer working for ourselves. We are working, as it says in Colossians, “as if for the Lord.”  


“We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2  Corinthians 5:20)


There is no more of this, “Well, I am only a clerk, or dock worker, or truck driver.” You are first and foremost an Ambassador for the Kingdom of Heaven! That is your eternal identity. Think about it. Was Paul only a tent maker? Was Peter only a fisherman? Was Jesus only a carpenter?  


What about Luke? He was a doctor. Do we remember him for all the great medical work he did? No, in fact, it’s not even mentioned anywhere. We do know him as an author of the Bible, a man whom God used to write one of the Gospels of Christ and the book of Acts!


In fact, there were many men and women of God in the Bible who had secular occupations just as we have today. If that were all they were known for, we would not be remembering them today. We know them because their service to the Lord transcended their secular work and extended into eternity. 


I had a friend who was a successful architect and a fellow Olympic fencing coach. He always said that he did his architectural work to support his fencing habit. I tell people I do fencing work to support my ministry habit. 


If you are a Christian, if you are “in” Christ, then you are “In” the Church. We can be either active functioning parts of the body or fat weighing it down. One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes which I use over and over again is that in church, "there are no passengers or parasites".  


That need not concern us. If we feel fat, we exercise. What’s more, physical injuries or illnesses need not sideline a believer. If you can talk to other people, if you can write, you can still serve as an Ambassador to the Kingdom. Even the poorest and physically weakest believer can serve the body of Christ greatly through prayer. And, if there is anything the Church needs more of, it’s prayer. It’s not for a lack of members that a church grows weak; it’s for a lack of prayer by its members. If the Church is weak, if it is ineffective, if it is unable to affect Godly change in the environment in which it finds itself, it is not because of the building, it’s because the body is weak.


The only reason many of our churches are still alive today is that there are small handfuls of faithful believers in them who are praying. Their prayers are sustaining the rest of the body and allowing it to function and live through God’s grace and mercy. Remove that remnant and the church would die, or worse yet, it would continue to exist, not as a body of believers, but as a body of the living dead: church zombies. Now that’s a real Zombie apocalypse! 


A body in this world will have strengths and weaknesses. Our goal is not to find, join or manufacture a perfect body in this fallen world. That will not happen. There are no “perfect“ churches in this present earth. There are times when the Holy Spirit tells us that we must leave a church, such as when teaching of the word of God has become compromised and twisted and our efforts at biblical restoration have failed, or where sin is openly tolerated and accepted. However, scripture reminds us: 


“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) 


God intends us to meet together for worship, ministry, support, and prayer. As the days grow darker, it is even more important to find a place that has a faithful remnant for encouragement and strength. That may only be a small group, but the size doesn’t matter, the spirit matters.  


By the way, in a broader sense there is no such thing as being “in between churches”. You’re either part of the body of Christ or you’re not; you’re lost, unsaved. If, however, you are a believer, a follower of Christ, your individual calling, your spiritual gifts continue whether or not you are currently a member of an existing local church body or not. It is not “the church” that calls you and gives you spiritual gifts. According to Scripture, it is the Father who calls us and gives spiritual gifts “to each one just as He determines.” (1 Corinthians 12:11) 


You are the Church, the body of Christ and it is a 24/7 vocation. Accept it. Exercise it. Start each day with the realization that you bear the body of Christ in this world wherever you go, whatever you do, and in everything you say. This is God’s purpose for you. 


“His (God’s) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3: 10-11)


What other earthly task can compare to that? It’s off the scale! Yet that is what you and I have been called to do. And, if we are to make known the manifold wisdom of God in the yet mysterious heavenly realms, how much more then should we make it known to those living in this present lost world? 


Your eternal purpose begins here and it begins now. You are a witness in all that you do and don’t do, and in all you say and don’t say.  


Let me leave you with a couple closing thoughts. By holding these things in the forefront of our minds and in the desires of our hearts, they can fundamentally set us free and help us renew our lives as members of the body of Christ. 


First, remember who you are, or rather, know who you belong to;


1 Corinthians 3:16 says: “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?” 


Know who you are at all times, wherever you go, whatever you do. Don’t see it as a burden; see it as unlimited power, unlimited love, protection, wisdom, courage, strength and the knowledge that you are never alone. You have nothing to fear, even death cannot hold you. You are the body of Christ. Be bold! 


Second, remember that you have a specific purpose and a calling. 


“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good…in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (1 Corinthians 12:7 & 18) 


The Lord has given you a unique gift of His Holy Spirit to be used and shared for the common good. You are not here by accident. God has placed you here, in His body, in your community, in your school or in your workplace, among your friends, and in your family to share the love of God with them through His body, the Church. We do it through Godly words, Godly deeds and through our prayers for them.  


Make this prayer your own: 


“Lord, we confess we are not a perfect body. We confess that we are weak and have fallen short. Forgive us, forgive me, Lord. Help us, help me, to be even more useful to your body in this world. Remind me continually of who I am, that I belong to You. Remind me, Lord, that you have given me a purpose and a gift unique to me. Use me, Lord; strengthen me when I am weak. Use me Lord; give me Your words to speak and the courage to speak them. Help me to bear your body unashamedly and honorably in this world. From this day forth, keep me from turning back. I am the body of Christ. I am the Church. Amen” 


Do not “go” to Church this Sunday; instead BE the Church today and every day! 



For Christ and His Remnant,


Pastor Bruce


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